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John Auchter

Editorial Cartoonist

Since 1995 John has created Michigan-based editorial cartoons for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, the Grand Rapids Press, and MLive Newspapers. His cartoons are currently featured at MichiganRadio.org and are syndicated to newspapers through the Michigan Press Association. John is an active member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. You can view an archive of his editorial work and other cartoons at Auchtoon.com. 

In addition to cartoons and essays for Michigan Radio, John works as a technical communication specialist. He has worked for a variety companies, from startups to large corporations, and has operated his own business. The job basically is the same as cartooning — putting words and images together to communicate. But in this case, John knows enough not to draw funny pictures of his boss or client. (Well, now he does.) 

John grew up on the east side of the state near Flint, graduated from Michigan Tech in da UP, and has lived in West Michigan since. He vacations Up North every summer and shovels lots of snow every winter. After his wife, he is the biggest Tigers fan in the family. He drinks Vernors when his tummy hurts.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

The second best advice I ever gave my kids was "Remember to do the things you're supposed to do and don't do the things you're not supposed to do." Pretty sound, right? Covers the bases, for them and for me. Of course, it helped they all had (and still have) really good moral compasses.

 

But the best advice I gave them was this: "Don't stake the success of any relationship on your intention to change the other person — you can't 'fix' people, so don't try to fix them."

 

a cartoon of Governor Rick Snyder endorsing Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley
John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I don't blame politicians for avoiding the "politician" label. Politician, after all, is a dirty word. They are all rotten, lying, cheating, crummy, crooked politicians, right? Well... maybe not all. In this representative form of government, we all profess to love so much, good politicians are critical to its success. Good politicians are advocates of the people. They listen, they understand, they form a consensus, and then they lead.

 

Coach John Beilein | Michigan Wolverines Men's Basketball. You can lose a game and still be a victor
John Auchter

I saw an interview with John Beilein after the Michigan loss to Villanova in the men's NCAA championship game on Monday. It was a fairly standard "what went wrong, what would you do differently, how do you feel about it?" sort of exercise, which Coach Beilein handled graciously. But when the interviewer asked Beilein about his team, he visibly brightened.

 

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Among the many things to admire about the youth who led the March for Our Lives events this past week is their patriotism. That may sound a little off because their detractors have gone to some lengths to question that very thing.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

The songwriting credit for the majority of Beatles songs is listed as "Lennon-McCartney," but in truth most of the songs were composed individually by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. One of the more famous examples of actual collaboration in the later years of the band is the song "Getting Better." In the refrain, the more optimistic and positive McCartney wrote the lyric, "It's getting better all the time," and the more pessimistic and negative Lennon contributes the next line, "Can't get no worse."

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

When I was in college, I played broomball. Broomball is basically ice hockey but instead of skates, sticks, and a puck you use tennis shoes, brooms, and a semi-deflated volleyball. It was a way for Michigan Tech students without winter sports skills to play a winter sport. Because there is a lot of winter in Houghton.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Next week, March 11–17, is Sunshine Week. For us Michiganders, the timing may seem a little off. It is squarely in the hopeless stage of our long, gray winter — what's this talk of "sunshine"? That's just mean.

Nevertheless, the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press use this week each year to promote the importance of access to public information. Sunshine is a symbol for our communities to have transparent access to what's going on in our government. The tagline is: "It's Your Right to Know."

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

There was a punk rock band called The Dead Milkmen that had a fun little run of popularity in the late 1980s. They were goofy and sardonic and unapologetically without polish.

One of their songs was called "Bleach Boys," in which the singer extols the supposed virtues of his buddies all drinking bleach (as opposed to indulging in alcohol or other drugs). It's hilarious.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Three inspirations for this week's cartoon:

  • A recent This American Life episode titled "Words You Can't Say." There are two stories, and both are really good. But if you only have a half-hour, definitely listen to Act 2. It is a textbook (and real) example of how strict adherence to ideology can absolutely obliterate common sense and common good. 

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Last year, the Trump administration budget proposed eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program to clean the lakes and protect them against invasive species. It was fairly up front about it, spinning it as the fiscally responsible thing to do.

"We must make cuts, can't just keep growing the national deficit, think of our children and grandchildren, etc." That used to be standard dogma for Republicans and a President who sold himself as an expert on debt, assuring us he would eliminate the federal deficit in eight years.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

When I was a senior at Powers Central Catholic High School in Flint, I went on a weekend religious retreat with a few of my classmates. It was fairly standard — two days away from the world to reflect and pray and to share the experience with peers. It took place on the grounds of a monastery that was also a working farm, so there were some rules. Mostly we needed to stay in or around the building that was dedicated for retreats.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

A single word to summarize these Larry Nassar trials? How about, "ugh"? Well, it may not be a real word, but it's a real feeling. Still, as stomach-churning as this experience has been, there are some,  if not positive, then at least hopeful takeaways.

John Auchter / auchtoons.com

Governor Rick Snyder delivered his final State of the State address Tuesday. It was pretty much what we've come to expect from Snyder, a vaguely corporate PowerPoint presentation. That’s in keeping with "business nerd" shtick, so no big surprise or disappointment.

John Auchter / http://auchtoon.com/

On Monday this week, while our nation celebrated the life and principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., immigration officials were actively deporting a family man from Lincoln Park, Michigan.

Jorge Garcia came to America 30 years ago when he was a 10 year-old boy, brought by undocumented family members. He built his life here: a wife and two teenage children (all US citizens), a home, a career as a landscaper, and a law-abiding, tax-paying member of the community.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner used to do a routine called "The 2000 Year Old Man." In it, Reiner was a reporter interviewing Brooks, a man from ancient times. It was largely adlibbed with the reporter deftly setting the premise with genuinely curious questions and the old man providing outrageous answers (in a thick Yiddish accent).

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

My Dad let me use a car for the winter term of my senior year at Michigan Tech. It not only was a generous thing to do, it was also very smart, saving him from making multiple trips between Flint and the hinterlands of the Upper Peninsula to drop me off and pick me up.

It did, however, come at a cost.

John Auchter / Auchtoons.com

Whether you were delighted with the politics of 2017 or devastated, we can all look forward to expressing ourselves in 2018. An informed and engaged electorate is the catalyst that makes this grand American experiment work. Thank you for reading — Happy New Year!

John Auchter is an independent editorial cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Sorry. I tried to come up with a positive, hopeful holiday message. But as was often the case in 2017, cold, harsh reality won out.

When I was a 20 year-old college student, I got a summer intern job at a GM foundry in Saginaw. I was a second shift supervisor. For the three months I was there I had various assignments and was responsible for anywhere between 8 and 16 workers. It was this type of job: Thankful for having the experience, thankful for never having it again.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Credit where credit is due. The punchline came from a friend. We were talking over lunch trying to reconcile the events of the past week: The Republican/Trump tax bill, the Alabama Senate race, travel-ban decisions, North Korean missiles, the Mueller investigation, and so on.

There is just so much to process, so much to, well, not to sound old, but growing up we just never would have anticipated this level craziness.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Larry Nassar, the doctor who worked with various women's gymnastics programs including the Michigan State University team and USA Gymnastics, pled guilty this week to charges of first degree criminal sexual conduct with children under the age of 16. 

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

My wife and I were channel surfing recently and came upon the Blues Brothers movie. It was at the scene where Jake and Elwood are stuck in traffic because of a demonstration. A cop walks by:

Jake: Hey, what's going on?

Policeman: Those bums won their court case, so they're marching today.

Jake: What bums?

Policeman: The <deleted> Nazi party.

Elwood: Illinois Nazis.

Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis!

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Remember nine years ago, when the auto industry was teetering on the brink of disaster? The housing bubble had burst, credit evaporated, and nobody was buying cars. Years of poor decision-making made the American automakers particularly vulnerable, so their execs headed to Washington to seek a bailout.

Part of that process was to appear before congressional panels so representatives and senators could ask appropriate questions like: "Why should we trust you?"

Our current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was a senator from Alabama at that time, and he was among those who grilled the execs. I remember Sessions being particularly aggressive. I didn't feel bad for the execs (after all, they were responsible).

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

The vast majority of us Americans have no direct ties to our military. Most of us have not served in the armed services. 

There are lots of reasons for this, but it's mostly because service is voluntary and has been for over 40 years.

It's something of a symbiotic relationship: Sometimes beneficial — generally citizens in the military are those who want to be in the military, and those who don't want to be are free to pursue other goals. But other times it feels as if those in the military are doing all the sacrificing.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

There was a story from the Detroit Free Press this week about an Oakland Country judge getting death threats because of recent rulings.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Okay, let's get this out of the way. The first five reasons that come to mind demonstrating why the President is the opposite of what his wife is advocating:

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

It's ironic to me that the best guidance for men, specifically men with power, comes from a film made in the 1960s, an era when sexual predatory behavior was often encouraged, if not celebrated.

In the movie The Apartment, C.C. Baxter (played by Jack Lemmon) is a bright and earnest young man trying to make a success of himself at a big insurance company in New York City.

Baxter is single and lives in an apartment in the city near the office, whereas the executives he works with,  and is eager to impress, are married and live in the suburbs.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

As an editorial cartoonist, I get called names all the time. Most are just garden variety insults like stupid, wimp, and jerk.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

At this point another editorial cartoon about guns and gun violence (especially after a mass shooting) feels like an exercise in futility. There is the emotional tumult that fuels an enormous bonfire, and the cartoons simply get tossed in. It rages and eventually burns itself out, leaving a feeling of despair. Rinse and repeat.

Back in August, Oprah Winfrey traveled to Grand Rapids to be a surprise moderator for a panel discussion. Various West Michiganders had signed up to be part of a focus group about the current state of American politics. Fourteen were chosen, seven who had voted for Donald Trump in November and seven who had voted for Hilary Clinton.

The resulting piece, entitled "Divided," aired on 60 Minutes last Sunday. If you haven't had the opportunity to see it, I highly encourage you to do so and draw your own conclusions. For me, it was reassuring. There were plenty of heated moments to be sure, but they were worked through. Differences of opinion were given thoughtful consideration, which then gave way to what appeared to be actual communication!

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